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My Metadata Brings All The Boys To The Yard.

Posted December 4th, 2012 by Ben

So my brother and I are making a film in the new year. Having flung our script out to some of our best eyes, we’ve now had enough compelling feedback to feel ready to redraft.

Normally this would mean retyping the old draft from scratch. That may make some of you double take but that’s how we like to work. It may sound hopelessly Luddite but we’ve found it too easy to leave material unchallenged when simply doing a cut and paste redraft.

However, this has always been when working on a spec script. We’re now redrafting something that is in production, with a need to highlight our revisions more clearly than in the past. Also our first day of principle is hurtling towards us like the ground greeting a inept stuntman. So we’ve been looking around for a new way of working.

For some years we’ve also been wondering why no one has made a grab for the cine-software market from first draft to final cut. A screenwriting programme that could then break down the work in a smart way, pulling out all the information needed for the schedule and budget. Indeed a suite of programmes that could take the data from that script through the schedule to the set and on ending up in your edit bin with all your rushes linking straight back to the first document you wrote. Well seemingly that’s now here and sadly it’s by Adobe.

Adobe Story promises all of the above and even if using it does take us one step closer to Premiere, we both felt it had to be worth investigating.

First impressions were generally favourable. Granted our script lost a lot of formatting on input, but Story did automatically detect our main characters and generate a pointless but spookily accurate graph of our story’s pace. This was cool.

Reinstating the correct formatting less cool. The template is set up with hot keys that flow automatically whilst writing. So hitting return after a scene heading always moves you to action, then tab for character. This is great whilst writing but applying formats to existing text seems to rely on selecting from a drop down menu. Fine for single instances but a horrible way of reformatting in bulk. Assignable hot-keys seems like an odd basic to miss.

Three hours later and our script is ready to revise. This process also has quirks, mostly stuff I expect you learn to work with. But if a lack of obvious keyboard short cuts was a surprise then the real shocker was the speed of the thing.

Story is a web app which likes to imagine we’re all sharing an online office. It’s a great idea but even when working offline it feels like typing on a remote server. A noticeable lag makes it a thoroughly unpleasant writing experience.

Perhaps I’ve been spoilt by writing in Scrivener for the past few years, which is like writing in silk. Story holds up badly in comparison. Along with the unresponsiveness comes an ugly rendering of Courier, annoying pop-up windows and a clumsy UI which hides most of what you need in favour of empty grey space. Story is horribly reminiscent of the bane of my life – Sage, the accounts package my accountant makes me use.

So that was day one with Adobe Story. Did we give up? No. Because despite all the complaints the hook of all that metadata is too good to pass up on.

We know that with this film we are going to be working in a very fluid manner. We have a tiny budget and, thanks to Christmas, a short prep window. We also have a script that we intend to develop around the actors. Things are going to change. The thought that for a little more pain today we can save ourselves a great deal of agony in a few months time is very appealing. The idea that a change we might make in a scene will then be automatically updated in the schedule and budget is very sexy indeed.

That is of course if it actually works. If you have any experience of Story and the workflow from here on then I’d love to hear your views.

We might have just made the first big mistake on this film. On the other hand we might have taken a step towards cutting on Premiere…

  1. Catherine Sheldon

    Oh no! We really don’t want to be the bane of your life.

    Are you based in the UK? If you are why don’t you drop me an email and I’ll arrange for one of our Support Team to take you through some of the features. It’ll hopefully make your life a little bit easier.

    Catherine Sheldon
    Sage UK

  2. Nic

    Interesting.. How does it compare to Celtx?

  3. Steve Turnbull

    As NLC said: Celtx has been doing it for years. And it’s still free.

    Allows you to schedule the shoot from the script itself. Produces call sheets, info for set, props costume, make-up etc etc.

    I recently did a breakdown for a 1 hour script and a rough schedule for the shoot in an evening – only to find we don’t have enough studio time. [sigh]

    (Please note: any comments like “people lose their scripts in celtx” are about 5 years out of date – and I’ve been using it that long and it *never* happened to me.)

  4. Neil Monaghan

    Thanks for pointing out this software. I’ve been using Adobe products forever and love cutting on Premiere – so all the grey looks pretty cool to me. Will try this out immediately.

    The only slightly disconcerting thing was the guy presenting the intro video who describes himself as Adobe’s Premiere Worldwide Evangelist. Have I been part of a cult all these years?

  5. Ben

    Thank you all very much for your thoughts.

    Catherine especially, you win points for being pro-active on behalf of Sage. I’ll definitely be taking you up on that offer ;)

    Steve, Celtx certainly looks more interesting than it did last time I looked, will check it out. Is there a work flow through to post?

    And yes Neil, you have been part of a cult all these years ;D

    It’s not the grey I mind, it’s the misuse of space. Like the way that when you try and shrink the outline panel so it takes up less room the the scene names get compressed but the empty grey spacers stay the same size… frustrating…

  6. Ben

    Oh Catherine, I can’t find your email but I’m ben@shootingpeople.org so drop me a line.

    much love

  7. Deva Palmier

    Hey Ben, This sounds potentially like it might be an answer. But I don’t think that I could handle the lag when writing.
    I love Celtx and how you can move from writing the script to storyboarding it and back again – but I haven’t yet mastered the production scheduling.
    And also, of course, Celtx is free.
    How much does Story cost?

  8. Ben

    Well the online single user version of Story is also free.

    To upgrade to the desktop version and proper multi-user it’s $10 a month… which is the same as the Celtx-edge package (which offers the same functionality of sharing script and scheduling tools).

  9. Deva Palmier

    Ah! Thanks Ben, so maybe it is worth a look. Deva X

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